Something Missing, Something Gained
“You ask why I make my home in the forest, and I smile, and I am silent, and even my soul remains quiet:
it lives in the other world which no one owns. The peach tree blossoms. The water flows.” —Li Po (701—762)
What had been left behind, how much of Li Chao’s life, jostled of its contents, went missing from memory—made no impression on the newness of the day. He was alive—and knew it. He knew that much. It was good to be alive. He knew that too. He also knew it didn’t have to be that way. He could be dead. He could be nothing—nothing at all. But he wasn’t dead. But, he felt . . . different, somehow. On balance, he felt blessed. Even so, as fragile as he was, a rejoicing spirit can only do so much. Though he didn’t know when he first emerged from the cave, his life hadn’t been his own to claim. His salvation had been handed to a stranger. Before the sun had set that fateful day, before half a hundred steps had produced half a hundred falls which splayed his body into plumes of thigh-high drifts, when rising once again to take another step was the same as trying to stand and walk on water—Li Chao had collapsed.